This year’s iPhone 4 update was different from previous years because of the avalanche of leaks that hit the Interwebs. Apple was able to keep a few surprises in store though and we take a look at what it got right and what it may have missed out on. Hop on after the jump and let us know what you think in the comments.
During our WWDC preview, we nailed most of the new features in the iPhone 4. Most of the upgrades weren’t necessarily mind-blowing but I think the iPhone 4’s screen is more impressive than many of us thought it would be. Dubbed “Retina Display,” this 3.5-inch screen has 326 pixels per inch, which should approach the visual clarity of freaking paper. This is supposed to make text much sharper, as well as make videos and images much more vibrant. Apple obviously thinks this is the best display around on mobile phones but let’s see how it holds up to direct sunlight and everyday usage. I would have also liked a bit more screen size, as the massive 4.3-inch screen on the EVO 4G has absolutely spoiled me.
One thing iPad users will tell you is that it’s blazing fast and part of that is the A4 chip inside. That chip will now be inside the iPhone 4, which should help it better handle the multitasking that’s in iPhone OS iOS 4. Of course, this could lead to battery woes but Apple has included a larger battery that should provide more talk and browsing time. There’s also 802.11n WiFi, which is still curiously lacking in many top-shelf handsets (I’m ignoring you, BlackBerry Pearl 3G).
As for the new design, we were torn when we first saw it hit the web but the finalized version is looking mighty nice. It’s all glass and steel, which should feel nice in the hand. At 9.3 mm thick, it’s also the thinnest smartphone in the world, which is quite a feat with all the anorexic devices we’ve seen lately. What I like is that it’s not just a cosmetic upgrade, as the slits on the side of the device are part of an integrated antenna system that could boost reception. This could be a godsend for those in major metropolitan cities, although AT&T still has to do its part.
With 8-megapixel shooters on the Droid Incredible and EVO 4G, the iPhone was looking a little behind. The new Apple smartphone will have a 5-megapixel camera that focuses more on the image sensors instead of just raw megapixels. It has a backside illuminated sensor and an LED flash to help with low-light photos and it can also record 720p HD video at 30 frames per second and the new iMovie for iPhone app was a neat and somewhat unexpected announcement.
As expected, the iPhone 4 will include video calling. Called “FaceTime,” this allows users with the latest iPhone to make two-way video calls over WiFi. It seems to work as we thought it would but it will be interesting to see how it performs when (or if) it’s allowed over mobile data networks.
Not much, really. The only thing I can really say I’m disappointed in is that there was no mention of a streaming iTunes service. We were hoping Apple would provide some sort of digital storage locker of all your purchased content that could be accessed by any iDevice through the cloud. This would alleviate the need for a lot of on-board storage and it would make Apple’s mobile devices much better cloud-devices (for heck’s sake, the Kin phones are better than the iPhone at this, at least in terms of streaming music). Apple has recently shut down the music-streaming service Lala too, so we thought it would take that technology and integrate it into the next iPhone. Ah well, I guess we can have something to look forward to during the Fall refresh of the iPod.
There were also some indications that Apple could include near-field communication technology for mobile payments or for strong social networking. That turned out to be rubbish, at least for now. There’s no removable battery or system-wide Facebook integration (at least, this wasn’t touched upon) but we may have been too hasty to expect these.
Overall, I think Apple did a strong job with the latest iPhone, both in terms of hardware and software. It’s not light years ahead of the competition like it was with the original iPhone but I still think it’s a few paces ahead.
How say you, readers? What did Apple do well with this update? What did it muff? What’s the one thing you really wanted to see?